This advice applies to Northern Ireland. Change country
The 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme - you deny you’re the father of the children
Both parents are legally responsible for the financial costs of bringing up the children. If you don’t have day-to-day care of the child, you may have to pay child maintenance to the other parent.
The parent who has day-to-day care may apply for maintenance and name you as the parent who has to pay maintenance. But you may deny that you’re the father of the child.
All new applications for maintenance are dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service under the 2012 Child Maintenance Scheme.
This page tells you more about what to do if the Child Maintenance Service contacts you to ask you to pay maintenance and you deny you’re the father of the child.
In Northern Ireland, you can arrange maintenance through the Northern Ireland Child Maintenance Service.
If you want more information about the different ways you can arrange child maintenance, go to Child Maintenance Choices at www.nidirect.gov.uk.
Therefore, when the page refers to the Child Support Agency (CSA) or the Child Maintenance Service (CMS), in Northern Ireland this means the Northern Ireland Child Maintenance Service. When the page refers to Child Maintenance Options, in Northern Ireland this means Child Maintenance Choices.
When the CMS may treat you as father of the children
If the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) contacts you to pay maintenance and you aren’t the father of the children, you should give your reasons why you’re not and provide any evidence to support this.
However, even if you deny you’re the father of the children, the CMS will treat you as the father in the following circumstances:
- the children are habitually resident in this country, and
- the children have not been adopted since you separated, and
- you were married to the mother of the children at any time between the date of conception and the date of birth of the children, or
- you're named as the father on the birth certificate.
Other ways you can be treated as the father of the children
You may also be treated as father of the children because:
- of donor insemination or fertility treatment
- the children were conceived by a surrogate parent and a court has made a parental order naming you as the father
- a court has made a declaration that you’re the legal parent of the children and the children haven’t been adopted since
- you’ve adopted the children.
If you still deny you’re the father of the children
If none of these circumstances apply and you deny you’re the father, the CMS will interview both you and the mother. They’ll look at both your statements and any evidence.
At the interview you may be asked:
- if you knew the mother of the children and for how long
- if you had sex with her and whether contraception was used
- why you believe you aren’t the father of the children
- whether a DNA test has already been carried out and, if not, whether you would take one.
The mother of the children will also be asked similar questions about:
- her relationship with you
- details of any sexual relationships three months before and after the estimated date of conception
- whether she’s willing to take a DNA test.
Applying to the court for confirmation you’re the father of any children
The CMS can apply to court for confirmation that you’re the father of the children. However, this is only used in very complex disputes, or where DNA testing is not appropriate, for example, if the children were born as a result of fertility treatment.
The court will decide the case on the evidence available, such as a birth certificate and the result of any previous DNA test. The court can’t force you to have a DNA test but if you refuse, the court will probably declare you are the father.
The mother has to give her consent for the children to have a DNA test but the court can override any refusal to give consent if it considers it’s in the children’s best interest for the sample to be taken.
Disputing you’re the father after the CMS has made a maintenance calculation
If you’ve accepted that you’re the father of the children and you dispute it after a maintenance calculation is in place, it’s up to you to prove that you aren’t the father. It isn’t up to the CMS to prove you are.
You’ll be offered a DNA test only if you can provide proof why you think you aren’t the father. The mother must also agree there might be some doubt.
If you continue to deny that you’re the father of the children, you’ll be offered a DNA test. If you refuse to take it, the CMS will treat you as the father.
If you can’t pay for the DNA test, the CMS will pay the fee for you. But if the test shows that you’re the father of the child, you’ll have to repay this money.
If the DNA test proves you are not the father
The CMS may ask the parent who was getting maintenance to pay back any money that you’ve paid since the date you denied you were the father. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis. The CMS will also refund the costs of any DNA tests you've paid for.
You won’t get a refund on maintenance you paid before you denied you were the father.
If the DNA test proves you are the father
You’ll have to pay:
- any maintenance arrears
- court costs
- the cost of the DNA test.
You may also put at risk any application for contact with the children.
Challenging a maintenance calculation:
- Download a leaflet about 'What to do if you're unhappy with the Child Maintenance Service' from the Department for Work and Pensions